Tough (Question) Tuesday is rolled into a post for The Girl Effect today, because I’m crafty like that. “The Girl Effect” is a powerful idea: by investing in girls in the developing world, they make an incredibly effective investment in eradicating poverty, creating thriving communities, and slowing the spread of AIDS. You can click here to see all the bloggers who took a day to write about The Girl Effect Movement.
Deirdre on the back of a pick-up truck in Thailand. Is this girl the freakin’ coolest or what?! (Please note: this is a hypothetical question)
I have a dear friend who kept me sane in Corporate America. Her name is Deirdre, and she started as an Executive Assistant at the financial consultancy company I was at a few short months after I did. We bonded right away, superficially because of our similar actor pasts and fiery personalities (we both didn’t take no s***, there or anywhere else), but on a deeper level because of our goals, dreams, and yearnings (I feel cheesy writing “yearnings”, but it’s the truth). While I knew from the get-go that I took that job to allow me to get my coaching certificate and build up my business, Deirdre knew that she was there for a reason, too – but what it was, she wasn’t sure. She learned pretty quickly that she wasn’t meant for the corporate world, and that there was Something More out there for her. A more religious person than I, I was jealous/skeptical when she would say that she prayed for an answer, or that she was opening herself up to just keep her eyes open and see what came her way. The practical, non-spiritual part of me wanted to protest, giving her exercises and helping her take action. Thankfully, I didn’t, as she got exactly what she asked for and allowed herself to see: an email from a friend who founded a non-profit to eliminate child sex trafficking in Thailand and was asking for help. I can still see (and hear!) Deirdre describing what it was like to get that email, to feel called to respond – not with a donation or some local volunteering, but with an offer to come to Thailand for a few months and build up a program around Acting as Therapy. She made that decision in under an hour – one that would involve quitting her job, leaving the life she built in NYC, and traveling alone across the world to a country where she didn’t speak the language, committing herself to work with the children there who were high-risk for being sold into the sex trafficking industry.
The wheels were in motion almost immediately. She knew she’d give her notice the day her bonus came through (just like me!), and while she had her doubts and fears, she knew this was her Next Step. Her excitement and passion were palpable, tangible things, and while she learned more about the sex trafficking industry and SOLD (the not-for-profit itself), the more she felt called to do this work. She left for Thailand in May 2010 and returned at the end of the year to her parent’s home in New Hampshire. A few weeks later she got a job on Long Island as an Au Pair Coordinator of sorts , and while she was excited to be close to NYC and to work with women from all over the world, the job quickly ran thin and she realized she needed to be involved with the anti-sex trafficking industry directly to feel fulfilled. My hero, she packed it in once again last month and moved to Oklahoma City, where she knows only 1 person but also knows that a number of foundations are there that have to do with her plight. For her, it was worth making the move just for the opportunity to meet people connected with that world right here in the States, and to get involved herself. Because of a convention she went to earlier this year, she already has a network of people to call on and get the word out as to who she is, what she’s done, and what she’s looking to do.
P’Dara (as the Thai kids called her) in front of her classroom.
When I think of The Girl Effect, I think of my friend Deirdre. I think she’s remarkable and brave and such a light to do what so many others wouldn’t/couldn’t do (myself included): educate, prevent and stop sex trafficking both here in the States and abroad. Just hearing accounts of what she listened to at that convention, the American woman she met who was forced into the sex trade industry by her boyfriend, how the police act and what these women (and children!) are subjected to…well, it makes my stomach turn, and I know I wouldn’t be able to surround myself with that sadness. But Deirdre? She’s my hero. Those facts and tales fuel her, and I have complete and utter faith in knowing that she’ll one day be a lobbyist, a speaker, a writer, and a safehouse founder herself. With Deirdre, it’s never a matter of “if”, but “when.”
Deirdre also opened my eyes to what it really, truly means to be a “pimp”, and from this point on, I’m scrapping it from my vocabulary. Some of you might know it was my substitute word for “marketing”, “selling” and/or “promoting”, but after reading this, using that word would come with guilt and shame. So, I’ve replaced it with “hooplah”, equally fun and silly but, um, without the degration. See what I mean about her being such an amazeballs educator? Making the world a better place – that’s my hero and friend, Deirdre.
Do you know anyone who’s making the world a better place for girls/children/people everywhere? I can’t abandon Tough (Question) Tuesday completely, so please share who your hero is in the the comments below, or write your own Girl Effect post!